Landscapes –
Paradise, Dream or Threat?

Work with landscapes in Nationalmuseum's collections. Use our material with tutorial guides, exercises and pictures för Swedish teachers and pupils abroad.

A landscape painting is rarely a realistic depiction of nature, but reflects the dreams and ideals of the time.

In the early 17th century, the landscape was gradually freed from merely serving as a background, and became more acceptable as a subject in its own right. Towards the end of the 18th century, under the influence of Romantic ideas, landscapes were often portrayed as having a soul.

The 19th century was the heyday of landscape painting. Mid-century, the Swedish countryside gained a vital role as a national symbol. Nature became part of the national identity.  At the same time, landscape painters were in close touch with impulses on the European continent and their art was influenced by both nationalism and internationalism.

At the end of the 1800s, outdoor painting became popular. Outdoor painters sought to portray light as realistically as possible. Their motto seems to have been: “Keep your eyes open and notice how the landscape is forever changing.” This is an entirely different approach to that of the Romantic artists, who composed their landscapes indoors, in their studios, with the aim of conveying a feeling or mood. Later, artists such as Ernst Josephson, Carl Fredrik Hill and August Strindberg used landscapes to communicate emotions and memories – a kind of inner landscape, rather than a realistic depiction of scenes that actually existed.

Landscape painting lived on into the 20th century, but was no longer as common a subject in art.

Landscapes as a learning resource

Landscapes can be used in school projects relating to national identity or historical periods. The theme is also useful when studying landscape painting as a reflection of the times and thoughts, dreams and ideas in the past and present.

This theme's paintings

This section presents three landscape paintings for study: Waterfall in Småland by Marcus Larson, The Outdoor Painter by Carl Larsson, and Wonderland by August Strindberg.


Picture: Waterfall in Småland, Marcus Larsson

Waterfall in Småland, Marcus Larsson

Teacher's guide and pictures

Each theme is accompanied by a teacher's guide with facts, exercises and pictures. There is also an illustration folder. The images can be printed out in A4 format or shown in the classroom, for instance by using an LCD projector. You will also find a separate illustration folder containing the images from all four themes

pdf Teacher's guide
ikon power point Pictures, Landscape theme
ikon power point All pictures


The production of this educational material was made possible thanks to generous funding from SWEA.




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